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23 al-Qaida militants killed in Yemen

Jan. 25, 2012: Yemeni armed tribesmen stand guard in front of Ameriyah religious school which was seized by Al Qaeda militants in Radda town, 100 miles south of the capital Sanaa, Yemen.

Jan. 25, 2012: Yemeni armed tribesmen stand guard in front of Ameriyah religious school which was seized by Al Qaeda militants in Radda town, 100 miles south of the capital Sanaa, Yemen.  (AP )

Yemeni officials say at least 23 al-Qaida-linked militants have been killed in fighting in the country's south.

The confrontations come during Yemen's campaign to retake parts of the south from al-Qaida following a year of internal turmoil.

Military officials say al-Qaida militants tried to storm a small town north of the group's stronghold of Jaar in Abyan province on Thursday. Armed civilians along with soldiers backed by artillery fought off the al-Qaida militants, officials said. At least 20 were killed in the battle

Also in the south, warplanes bombed a vehicle suspected to belong to al-Qaida on the road between Jaar and another al-Qaida stronghold — Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan, killing three militants.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters.